Death Grips stick their cock in the eye of sony music, release their new album for free, let anyone make money with it, then change their mind about it

Many people wound up on this post through various sources (Death Grips Twitter account, Brooklyn Vegan, Tiny Mixtapes, CorruptFork…). If you’re into weird hip hop, you should also listen to the amazing band Clipping. They are not this week’s epicentre of the Hype, but they do mindblowing music.

Don’t let machiavelian PR schemes fool you, the bear is the actual album cover.

Last february, I was disappointed to learn that Death Grips, a wonderful trio making angry fractured hip hop (with The Magnificent Zach Hill on drums, Andy Morin on keyboards and Stefan Burnett on vocals), had signed a major label deal with Epic/Sony.

Ex-Military Mixtape, their first album, was released under a Creative Commons non commercial licence, allowing people to copy, distribute, display, and build derivative works based on their music, as long as it was for non-commercial purposes. Consequence ? Ex-Military was shared hundreds of thousands of times. It turned Death Grips into one of the most famous indie band taking a real alternative stance on the actual copyright system, acknowledging people’s right to share. AND it is an awesome record.

Download full version of Ex-Military Mixtape (or instrumentals + acapellas version).

Then they signed with a Major. Obviously, it wasn’t just a greedy move (anyone who knows the bands members will agree on this), but rather a “we’ll have big distribution and total control over creativity” blah blah thing. Death Grips stated they would release two albums this year via Epic: The Money Store (last april), and No Love Deep Web (planned this October).

When the Money Store came out, Epic/Sony predictably barred them from using a Creative Commons licence. The band then decided to act naughty: they leaked the album on Youtube anyway, allowed people to download a bunch of tracks, leaked the instrumentals after an incredible hide-and-seek game in the deep internet. Death Grips also are the most legally-downloaded band on BitTorrent in the first half of 2012 (oh my god, 34,151,432 downloads of weirdo hip hop noise music). The Money Store truly is an amazing piece of music, but the whole album wasn’t released under a Creative Commons licence, so legally people weren’t allowed to share all the tracks, remix it, etc.

However, it seems the honeymoon between Death Grips and Epic is officially over.
Death Grips tweeted today “The label wouldn’t confirm a release date for NO LOVE DEEP WEB ’till next year sometime. The label will be hearing the album for the first time with you”.

Ten hours later, they released their new album for free. Tons of websites have already reported it, but it seems only a few (i say “a few” because i’m polite, i actually read nothing about it – edit: Death Grips and others have spread the A&D post you’re reading, thanks to them, and Consequence of Sound wrote a piece about it) noticed they didn’t just “release it for free”: they allow anyone to make money with it.

According to the Archive.org download link they’ve posted themselves, this album is indeed released under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 licence, a veeery open one. Of course, it lets people share and remix the music, but contrary to the previous licence they chose for Ex-Military, it also authorizes commercial uses without asking permission, as long as the music is still credited to the band. Yes, you can use Death Grips’ music in a TV ad (for an energy drink maybe?), or in a big commercial movie. You don’t have to wait for a physical release date, you can start a record label instead, press and sell 10,000 copies of this album without even asking the band NOR Epic/Sony if they are okay with that. Well, if you’re not an asshole, I hope you’ll send Death Grips some money.

Some people (Hi Sean!) are wondering if the whole operation is a PR stunt. But the licence chosen debunks such hypotheses because it implies that Epic/Sony don’t have exclusive commercial rights on Death Grips’ music anymore (while a Creative Commons Non Commercial licence would have allowed Epic/Sony to retain exclusive rights on commercial uses). There’s no way a major compagny would accept such a licence as part of a PR scheme. Actually I think it is the first time a band signed on a major label releases an album on a CC Attribution 3.0 licence.

Anyway, i wanted to say a big THANK YOU to Epic/Sony for pissing off Death Grips and pushing them back to the arms of Creative Commons. Sharing is Caring, blah blah blah, Amen.

EDIT 10.4.12: Death Grips have now changed the Creative Commons Attribution licence into an Attribution-Non Commercial one. It means you can share or remix the work, but NOT use it commercially without permission. Several explanations are possible:
- They didn’t know what kind of licence they took in the first place (I doubt it, as it wasn’t their first Creative Commons release and Death Grips themselves shared this A&D post via Twitter).
- They changed their mind.
- Epic/Sony made them change the licence, so the Major Company can still have exclusive commercial rights on Death Grips music. As the Major Company has paid for the recording of No Love Deep Web, this scenario is quite likely.

Death Grips website was down for a while. I thought it was collapsing because of too many visits, but serious prominent yet corrupt press talked to Zach Hill, and he confirmed Epic/Sony took the website down! And then Epic/Sony denied it! And then the website came back! Then it disappeared one more time! Then it is here again! Woo! (my guess is their web hosting company had a problem with the penis cover)

Thank God/Santa Claus/Richard Stallman, you can also download the full album via Archive.org or via Bayfiles or stream it via Soundcloud (who didn’t like the album cover either apparently).